Pan-Africanism is Biblical

There is a trending topic all over Africa these days, the discussion on Pan Africanism. The call or urgency of the topic is to ignite Africans to make Africa great once again. Africans want to revive its education, economy, and social living. This is obviously in contrast with the rest of the world, and the evidence is clear; Africa is far from being developed, educationally and economically, and far from being a co-equal to other leading powers. This topic demands both urgency and clarity. Many Africans especially recently have examined this topic, and I stand in their shoes to herald the same message which thus far is still falling on deaf ears. Many have taken this subject to be political and forget that the same world the politicians live in is their world too. As we begin, I must warn you, this is a lengthy article compared to our usual meals, and I must say, it is only reserved for those serious and willing to engage.

This is God’s world, and I would therefore challenge every Christian to put their armor on and act on their rightful responsibility to this continent. God has not created and intelligently fashioned our continent to ruins. I aim to persuade Christians, who are always reluctant to engage in this topic. At length, I would love to argue that Pan-Africanism when is defined well and pursued rightly is actually biblical, and it is not an evil political agenda.

Definition and Explanation

Definitions are good because they bring clarity and remove any shadow of self-interpretations. Thus, it is necessary here to define Pan Africanism. It is an ideology that asserts and supports the solidarity of Africans worldwide, stressing that the unity of Africans those on the continent and those in the diaspora is of vital importance to our political, economic, and social progress. It is aimed to uprooting the misinformation concerning this continent, and that this is not a wasteland as we are made to believe. It is all about solidarity and unity, unifying the Africans, for their fate of African countries is intertwined and interlocked. Pan Africanism stress self-reliance among Africans from foreign bodies though not isolated and grow to be a co-equal to other global markets.

Biblical defense

As mentioned above, many African Christians shy away from this topic, and I am here to challenge them that it is their duty to be Pan Africans in a biblical sense. God is the creator of this world, and every continent in it is his. There is no place where his presence is not, and there is no place where one can hide from him. The point that must be nailed into our minds is that this is God’s world, and we must live in God’s world God’s way. No wonder the book of Act chapter seventeen verses 26-27, says, “And he [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each of us” (English Standard Version). These verses are loaded, allow me to explain. Firstly, human beings are from God; he created them. Secondly, there is only one race, for from one man he made every nation of mankind. Thirdly, we were created to live on earth; earth is our original home (no wonder, when all is said and done and Christ comes back, God will make a new earth – Revelation 21). Fourthly, God has determined and knows the number of years we will be here. Fifthly, God has determined where we are born; thus, there is no strange or waste lands. Sixthly, God wants us to seek and worship him where we are; thus, there is no one holy place on earth; all lands are holy for the LORD. Finally, God wants us to serve him where we are. So, if you are born in Africa, it was not by accident; God placed you here and for a reason. Thus, let us quiet those evil ideas that Africa might be a cursed land. This is a holy place for God just like other places. This is why even in seeking to make Africa great once again, the motives must be for the glorification of one and the only true God and for the well-being of God’s people, for this is God’s will and plan from the beginning (Genesis 1 and 2).

For us to understand our need to develop our dwelling place, we must go back to Genesis and see how things were from the beginning of time. Genesis chapter 1 and 2 are vital chapters, for they show us how things where before the fall. And may I say that, these two chapter play a vital role in the Bible. If they are removed, then Genesis 3 to Revelation will not make sense at all. My plea as I am going to argue here is that as Africans we have abandoned Genesis 1 and 2, and we must go back to them for us to be biblical while here on earth. In chapter 1, we have God creating the cosmos, and it tells us in unique details how he created the earth and everything in it. How God created by forming and filling will become important late, for since he is God, he could have created once in a blink of an eye. But he went the longer route of doing things step by step. The sanctity in everything that God made was that it was good and perfect, altogether pleasing to him.

Before hurrying on, we must zoom in the uniqueness of men, how special we are created. God’s word says, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth…And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:26, 28). Five things to take note here: 1) The Triune God (Father, Son and Spirit) agreed to make us. 2) We are made in the likeness of God; we are the only creatures said to be created in God’s image and likeness, sharing some of God’s attributes. 3) We are God’s agents on earth, and he put us in charge of everything he has made. 4) God blessed us to fill the earth. 5) We are given explicit commands for the rest of human history to be fruitful, multiply and subdue the earth.

In Genesis chapter 2 and verses 19, we have Adam naming names, and the Bible says, “And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name”. It was not God’s duty to name the animals, while he has a representative. Adam must labor to name all of them. God will not be the one to come down from his glories to prune the trees and pave the lands of the Garden of Eden. Adam was responsible for that. God is not going to come into your house and organize your house into order; you must do it. Whatever pruning of whatever institution and destroying must be done by us. Let us emphasis this part which must never be forgotten or replaced. This is what we call the cultural mandate.

As Christians we like to emphasis on the preaching of the gospel and going to heaven. I would therefore want to challenge you that, the great commission did not replace the cultural mandate. However, the gospel came to sanctify the cultural mandate which is now polluted with sin. And ultimately, the gospel also came to prepare us for the world to come, which is not necessary heaven for us, but a new earth, when everything will be restored back to normal. But again, the gospel now, does not do away with the command to be fruitful, multiply and to subdue to earth. The gospel has to be there because the curse of the fall has fallen on nature too; Genesis 3:17 says, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it…thorns and thistles it shall bring forth”. The great commission is an urgent mission for people to be reconciled to God (Romans 5:11) and restored to conform to the image and will of the Son (Romans 8:18–25, 29, Ephesians 4:23-24, Colossians 3:9-10), for their safety, the safety of others around them, the safety of the rest of creation. The gospel is there to restore the worship in our work and in all things (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Therefore, as God created by forming and filling it, we are to do the same. Mbewe commenting on the same point says, “the purpose of our filling the earth is in order for us to subdue it. This is very clear from what God said to Adam here—”fill the earth and subdue it”.  The filling is to be done through multiplications. This is the challenge”[1]. The point is here: For us as Africans, God has not only commanded us to fill Africa with more copies of ourselves, but even to be productive in our politics and economy, and we must multiply and be more productive in that, leading to us subduing our area. By subduing, we mean to have control over. This is where development and need for progress comes in. The epicenter for this is work. In Genesis 2:15, we note that Adam was created and purposed to work the garden and to keep or nurture it. We must understand that as man, we are created to work. Remember we are created in the likeness of God, the God who also worked by creating us and everything in creation. Us being God’s image bearers, it implies that even in our work, we must copy God (This will be a study for later). So work is not evil. We must work and think and try and work. And as we work, remember the standard must be the standard of God, good as all that he did was good. For Africa to stand as a co-equal with other world economies, we must stand and work. The subduing of Africa must be done by Africans, for no country was ever build by foreigners.                 

What I am trying to establish and wholeheartedly persuading you to embrace in your mind and heart is that pursuing to make Africa great once again by improving her education, economy, moral, politic and social-wellbeing as Pan Africanist are attempting is not wrong; when it is pursed rightly and with right motives;  it is their biblical mandate.  To the Christian, the Cultural mandate, the duty to work and progress is a direct application of the gospel.

Historical Evidence

Africa has not always been as it is seen today, the dependent and underdeveloped place. Historical analysis strongly suggests otherwise. Mbetwa, our Zambian brother and father, in his wonderful study on “Why Africa is poor”, has done a brilliant study on the history of Africa’s civilization and down fall. Allow me to borrow his thoughts on this historical analysis. Studies have shown that countries across the stretch of the river Nile hosted the earliest civilization on record. These studies include those of Homea, Herodotus, Democritus, Aristotle, Diodorus, Strabo, Plutarch, Pliny and Josephus among others. Early Western poets and philosophers studied in Egypt, for Egypt was a choice to many for serious philosophical studies. Thus it is accurate to say that Africa introduced to the world the first university studies. Mbetwa quoting Reclus states: “When the whole of Europe was still overrun by savage tribes, that have left no records behind them, Egypt existed a civilized power of greatness. Astronomical observations, arithmetic, geometry, architecture, all the arts, and nearly all the sciences, and industries of the present day, were known when the Greeks were still cave men. The origin of the wisdom of the ancients were recorded upon the Egyptian papyri or on the monuments. The very groove of our present thought had its origin upon the banks of the Nile” (p. 9).  While the rest of the world was in barbaric backwardness, basics of modern life had their foundations laid by African people, over 6000 years ago, and lasting close to 4000 years.

Some might wonder if the same Africa being referred here is the same ones, the black Africans. Were these the blacks of Africa and not our light Arabic brothers in north Africa. However, a host of ancient records put together over a staggering 1200 years period consistently show that until AD 400, Egypt, like the rest of Africa, was populated by Africans or black people. Authoritative and eyewitness sources of these facts are such as Hesiod (700 BC), Aeschylus (525 BC), Herodotus (485 BC), Strabo (58 BC) and Marcellinus (AD 330). Thus and undoubtedly, under black African leadership Egypt reached the peak of its greatness. There were no foreign invasions; instead, foreigners came for trade and refuge[2].

Before colonialism, we had a chiefdom system that governed our lands and villages, which set with the elders on regular basis, did disputes in public for the benefits of all the people. The chief was not the one building his lands, but the people did under his leadership.

This is not meant to raise racial controversies, but to prove the point of the greatness that Africa once had. This is also meant to provide courage for us today, together in our diversities to thrive Africa once more.

The Downfall

As we look back, there are definitely things that have happened within the people themselves and also things which happened to them that contributed to this downfall. Mbetwa says that Africa has definitely been stroke with whatever eventually brings down kingdoms and empires.

Mbetwa further adds by suggesting the beginning of Africa’s downfall was with a contentment. “Content with her civilization, Africa suffered civilization burnout”, and “For centuries the Greeks spent sleepless nights copying Egypt’s civilization, as Egypt naively assured herself of the impregnability and immortality of her greatness”[3]. Such ill contentment is still visible today. One would inevitably observe our people content with their design of their village hats and thoughts of improving them never come across their minds. The same farming style/system used 100 years ago is still the same, and thou shall dare not change that! Our government buildings properties decay before our eyes, and we have gotten used to the breakdown. Mbewe commenting on our lack of industrialization, says, “Our businessmen tend to open one shop near their home and content themselves with it. They rarely think of multiplying those shops around the city or nation”[4].

Colonialism has also played a vital role in the downfall of Africa. The oppression by the powers that be sought to have dominant over the weak was severe and affected many sectors and institutions. Africa was robbed her wise and mighty men, just like how Nebuchadnezzar made sure that Judah was without mighty and wise men (Daniel 1). The threads and structure of colonialism still are present today, for the many present institutions, such as the education, are all inherited from the powers that be, and not something of our own.

Another contribution to this downfall from within is our culture. Besides Africa being a large continent, it is always safe to talk about the African worldview. The worldview of Africa is the same, often just expressed in different forms, but having core beliefs. The hierarchical system of leadership has not been helpful, for those who are on the top are never held accountable, and they are deeded to be infallible even when they fail to deliver what they have promised. The communalism philosophy has not also helped us; the ubuntu that we so much treasure as made us to be victims to others greed. All in all, sin has affected us and it is affected our cultures; therefore, affecting our politics, educations, and social life.

Finally, when African countries gained independence, they not only sought independence from the colonial masters but from their African neighbor countries too. Each started doing what they thought was needful, and each consulted their colonial power for support. It is as we are all in a competition with one another. Thus, our political leaders have not in a real sense played their role in uniting and strengthen African continent, but each feed their respective country. Sadly when further investigations are done, one would discover that these same leaders instead of feeding their nations, they only fed their homes. No wonder even their Children are not educated in their own lands.

Way Forward

  • Some changes

We must look for better ways of doing things that are contextually available and helpful for us. We should think through the inherited institutions we have and think on how we should improve them to measure up to today’s technology. Example, we need to improve our traditional medicinal sector, improve by introducing safe and healthy means of production, and improving the rate of production. Most of what we have today are systems that have been passed down from the colonial powers that are still foreign to us. The political system of democracy though deeded to be an angel, is not working because we do not understand it, nor was it contextualized to germinate from the African soil. The education system is a mess and the educational sector focuses on skills that learners are not even going to use. We must use and focus on what is needful. Dependency is also one of the diseases that need to be healed. Borrowing funds for payouts is outrages; instead, we must use them to generate more progress.

World history should remind us that no foreigners ever developed a country, unless they are cheated or enslaved to do so. It is the duty of the nationals to get dirty and initiate what they want to be. Yes, the foreigners help, but the nationals lead the way. We are not to kid ourselves, the future for Africa until Jesus comes back is in our hands. God is on his throne, and his will for progressive life is clearly revealed in the Bible. He (God) does not fail to provide strength and wisdom.  But the point is here, we must do the job, the thinking, the initiating, the building, maintenance, and destroying what is not working is our privilege and duty.

While here, the thoughts of Laban Mwashekele in his wonderful book, “Is Africa poor, miseducated, or is she mismanaged, Volume I” must be of great caution: “It should be noted also that, it is neither God, nor your ancestors who have put those borders between one African country and another. You are Namibian, Zimbabwean, South African, Tanzanian, etc., because you were told so. In all reality you are Africans because God has placed you within a continent with natural borders—the Indian Oceans, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. So, stop that habit of calling Namibia, Mauritania, Senegal or any Africa country your ancestral land. An animal that come to drink water at the water pan in the morning does not own that water pan more than that come there in the afternoon. Just because some of us came to Africa or Namibia first, that does not make us better Namibians than those who come here later”[5]. Those are wise words. We must seek to work together in our diversity, black, white, coloured. We are all here; therefore, together we must work and encourage one another.

  • Need for balance

As we work hard and think of innovative ideas, there is a balance that must be maintained. The fact is that there are two co-equal mandates: The cultural mandate and the spiritual mandate. However, the spiritual mandate though not being a senior of the other, comes first and must be first. If it comes last, then the first will be done with evil motives, ungodly results, and destructive consequences. The Spiritual mandate is the to save us from all manner of deception, to save us from sin, and to sanctify us and our work and to remind us that this world is coming to an end, thus, work is not ultimate, but worship is ultimate. Therefore, we must not just be lost in our Pan Africanism ideology without repented hearts. We seek the Lord and his righteousness first, and other things will follow (Matthew 6:33).

We must preach the whole gospel, the whole counsel of God is needed for our progression both spiritually and physically. We need the gospel of Jesus Christ that is power unto salvation for all who will believe (Romans 1:14–17). The gospel that radically transforms lives, reconciling us both to God and to one another. The gospel that changes families and homes. The gospel that can changes towns and nations. When did the gospel come to Africa? Many years ago! There is definitely a problem because more than half of the people of Africa claim to be Christian. There is only two options, either one, we have a wrong gospel, or two, we do not have genuine Christians. Are you saying that the gospel cannot transform us and heal our lands? I beg to differ, the gospel of Jesus Christ does save us, transforming our characters and motives, thus, leading us to influence godliness in our families, homes, communities, workplaces, and nations. As I recall from my theological training, the school embraced four core-values, which are as I think through them now, are what the gospel is all about: Honesty, Obedient, Wisdom, and Service. Where the gospel is, these four values thrive; where these four values thrive, godly progress is ensured. A gospel that forgets the Old Testament is a wrong gospel. A gospel that does not preach Genesis chapter one and two is an incomplete gospel. A gospel that only focuses on heaven is a misleading gospel. A gospel that does not transformed lives is a nominal gospel. A gospel that does not transform communities is a foreign gospel that cannot help us.

  • Right methodology

The methodology that we are to employ in making Africa great must be godly and appropriate. It must be morally and ethically right. We cannot abuse other people in the name of developing Africa. We should not replace white supremacy with African supremacy, which is what we often presently see too; we must seek the well-being of all God’s people in Africa (black, white, coloured), starting with those who are in desperate need. As I have said in the above point, the true complete undiluted and unpolluted gospel is one of the primary tools that Africa needs in order to raise again. The gospel is the power of God to change and transform.

  • Right motives

To what end should we seek to make Africa great again? The right end goal for attempting to make Africa great once again must be the glorification of God and for the well-being of all God’s people regardless of their skin color, gender, political affiliations, tribe. Our chief purpose is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. If we try to seek the greatness of Africa for our own glory, or for the glory of false gods, or for our own selfish interest, we will surely fail. And all our victories will not serve to be fruitful but destructive. The fruit of our labour will be eaten by us or the next generation.

  • Seeking self-reliance but not isolation

The rest of the world needs Africa much, and Africa needs the rest of the world as much. Thus seeking to make Africa again should not be understood to mean that Africa should be isolated from the world. God did not ordain things to be that way, for out of one man he made us all. In reality and how it was supposed to be, we are Ubuntu, the entire world. African need other countries to develop, just as other countries need Africa to stay alive and to develop.

Most importantly, making Africa great once again should not be used to promote independence from the one and the only true triune God. The world is created by God to be dependent on Him. It is made by God, through God, and for God. An attempt to be autonomous from God is pride that will always have bad consequences. You cannot achieve true greatness while you are busy fighting God. Even when things seem to go well, it is just a matter of time doom strikes.

Conclusion

Pan Africanism is an agenda to reform and restore our ruins as Africans regardless of our skin colour. It aims to engage all Africans, those on the continent and those on the diaspora. This is God’s world, and Africa is God’s continent. We must thus live in this continent God’s way. Therefore, development in our education, political, social, and economy are our duty. The gospel is the only cure that restores and reforms our ways to heal our lives, homes, families, and communities. Therefore, Pan-Africanism when is defined well and pursued rightly with the right motive is biblical.  Pursuing to make Africa great once again as Pan Africanist are attempting is not wrong when it is pursed rightly.

Book recommendation:

There are many good books out there on this subject, but here are three that are easily available:

  1. Why Africa is Poor—Choolwe Mbetwa
  2. Is Africa Poor, Miseducated, or is She Mismanaged, Volume 1 & 2—Laban Shitundeni Mwashekele
  3. Transforming our working culture, by being like God—Conrad Mbewe

[1] Mbewe, C. (2015). Transforming our working culture by being like God. Lusaka, Zamiba: The Evergreen Publishers. P. 30.

[2] Mbetwa, C. (2018). Why Africa is Poor. Chingola, Zambia: GS Media.

[3] Mbetwa, C. (2018). Why Africa is Poor. Chingola, Zambia: GS Media. P. 13.

[4] Mbewe, C. (2015). Transforming our working culture being like God. Lusaka, Zamiba: The Evergreen Publishers. P. 30.

[5] Mwashekele, L.S. (2018). Is Africa Poor, Miseducated, or is She Mismanaged. Vol. 1. Windhoek, Namibia: Grace to the Nation Publications. P. 7.

2 thoughts on “Pan-Africanism is Biblical

    1. Writing and challenging our minds is a starter…but the essential work will be the individual responsibilities that we must do. Helping the next generation can be effective too; thus, we have to prepare our kids by educating them and not just leaving the educating in the hands of teachers. We the preachers must help God’s people understand and apply the gospel both at home and work.

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